Unveiling the education agent dilemma: Insights from AAERI’s survey in India and Nepal

The most striking revelation from the survey is that nearly two-thirds of Indian and Nepalese agents collaborate with other recruiters to gain access to education providers without official partnership agreements.

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The survey conducted by the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India (AAERI) sheds light on the practices and challenges faced by education agents in India and Nepal.

This in-depth news analysis will dissect the key findings and implications of this survey.

The most striking revelation from the survey is that nearly two-thirds of Indian and Nepalese agents collaborate with other recruiters to gain access to education providers without official partnership agreements. This highlights a prevalent practice within the industry that has significant implications for the quality of student recruitment.

Notably, the survey underscores a substantial difference between Nepalese and Indian agents in terms of taking on students referred by sub-agents. A striking 84 percent of Nepalese agents admit to doing so, in contrast to 47 percent of Indian agents. This discrepancy indicates a more common practice of sub-agent engagement among Nepalese counterparts.

A strong need for regulations

AAERI’s report emphasizes the urgent need for regulations governing the use of sub-agents in student acquisitions. Furthermore, it calls for greater clarity from the Australian government in this matter. This push for regulation is well-founded, considering recent incidents, such as the arrest of an Indian agent accused of forging university transcripts.

The larger organization’s decision to sever ties with the implicated individual underscores the risks associated with unchecked sub-agent relationships.

To address these concerns, AAERI proposes that agents declare their partnerships with sub-agents to universities. Additionally, they stress that the principal agent must shoulder responsibility for critical processes like admissions processing, genuine temporary entrant assessment, and the lodgment of student visas.

Furthermore, if a subagent’s role extends beyond lead generation, the principal agent should ensure their training and list their details on the company’s website. These measures aim to enhance transparency and accountability in the agent network.

The survey also reflects agents’ growing apprehension about misrepresentation by potential students. Nearly 90 percent of agents expressed serious concerns about students misrepresenting their education, finances, and English language proficiency. This phenomenon is closely linked to the rise of online counseling, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing number of students from the region seeking overseas education.

Online vs face-to-face counseling

However, the challenge with online counseling, as highlighted by AAERI, is the difficulty in assessing students’ intentions accurately. Over 70 percent of agents believe that a lack of intent to meet agents in person or virtually is the first sign of a non-genuine student.

Therefore, despite the digital shift, AAERI President Nishidhar Borra advises agents to prioritize face-to-face interactions to gain a deeper understanding of students.

In terms of support from institutions and governments, AAERI suggests several measures to recruit quality students. These include making in-person or virtual interviews with universities mandatory and verifying key documents through tools like Digi locker, a digital wallet overseen by the Indian government.

Also, universities are urged to provide clarity and consistency when evaluating agent performance and agreement renewals. Reviews should prioritize the quality, rather than the quantity, of recruited students.

Another significant challenge raised by agents is the lack of transparency in government decision-making regarding visa approvals and frequent changes in immigration policy. While many agents support recent reforms limiting students’ ability to change providers upon arrival in Australia, the report suggests additional potential reforms. These include linking visas to institutions and including agent names on the Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) in PRISMS, enhancing transparency and accountability.

A call for vigilance amid rise of rogue operators 

Lastly, agents express concerns about the rise of rogue operators who pose as education agents, charging students upfront while offering fraudulent academic credentials. This issue calls for increased vigilance and regulation within the industry to protect the interests of students and maintain the integrity of education recruitment.

The AAERI survey paints a comprehensive picture of the challenges and practices within the education agent industry in India and Nepal. The findings underscore the need for tighter regulation, transparency, and accountability to ensure the quality of student recruitment and safeguard the interests of both students and institutions.

As the education landscape continues to evolve, addressing these issues becomes paramount for maintaining trust and integrity in the sector.

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